Was the final presidential debate a service to voters?

    The third and final presidential debate is over, and the candidates are back on the campaign trail with two weeks left until Election Day. Was the debate of any service to American voters? Tell us what you think.

    The third and final presidential debate is over, and Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, are back on the campaign trail with two weeks left until Election Day. It’s doubtful that any partisans were swayed to the other side, and it’s hard to say if undecided voters were impressed.

    Was the debate a service to U.S. voters?Tell us in the comments below.

    Both candidates veered wildly from squabbles over foreign policy to stump-speech rhetoric about domestic issues like teacher’s unions and the automaker bailout. It suggests that highlighting differences between them on domestic issues is a more effective strategy for their campaigns.

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    Many commenters on Twitter noted that the differences between the candidates on war and diplomacy seemed less to do with policy than with tone. Indeed, in PBS NewsHour’s post-debate analysis, commentator Mark Shields agreed with New York Times columnist David Brooks: “They felt they had to disagree, even though there wasn’t disagreement.”

    The president went for a couple of zingers, attacking Romney’s lamentation of the size of the U.S. Navy with a condescending mock military-history lesson about horses and bayonets, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines; and going after Romney’s assessment of Russia as the No. 1 foe of the United States by saying, “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” Democrats will like it, but was it too mean?

    As expected in any political showdown, both candidates stretched the truth. And, also a common theme in debate analysis, many observers criticized moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News for not having effective control of the proceedings.

    Are we getting anything out of these debates besides political theater? If not, are they still giving us something useful?

    [View the story “Final presidential debate, Oct. 22” on Storify]

    Final presidential debate, Oct. 22


    Storified by NewsWorks · Mon, Oct 22 2012 20:59:36

    Bob Schieffer: “We have to be quiet as mice. We want a debate that is worthy of the presidency of the greatest country in the world.”Roger Simon
    The audience, like monks, have taken a vow of silence. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Controversy over attack in Libya takes center stage, first question of the night #debate #lynndebateRosemary Connors
    First mention of women, less than 1 minute into the first answer.Ari Shapiro
    Interesting that Romney mentions the death of Osama bin Laden before Obama has a chance. Also, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.”Ari Shapiro
    All of Obama’s ’08 campaign promises on foreign policy, Promise Kept, Promise Broken, etc. http://ow.ly/eGvzq #debatesPolitiFact
    When was last time a GOP candidate knocked a Democratic candidate for relying too much on killing people?chrissatullo
    “Your strategy has been one…that has been all over the map.” — Obama to Romney. And away we go! #lynndebateThe Fix
    RT @chrislhayes: Romney sounding like he’s actually going to try to get to Obama’s left, ala first domestic debate.The Nation
    “my strategy is pretty straightforward: to go after the bad guys” — crystal clear, laser clearFrank Reynolds
    Romney with another list, this on how to nation build. I’m getting vertigo – he’s sounding like a liberal critiquing Bush.chrissatullo
    Romney Foreign Policy: 1) Go after bad guys. 2) Take them out of the picture. 3) A pathway to reject extremism.Anne Cronin
    Romney called Russia our No. 1enemy. Mostly True. http://ow.ly/eGsmU #debatesPolitiFact
    Obama: Romney wants to implement foreign policies of the ’80s. #debatesPOLITICO
    Ooh, snap: Obama: “The 1980s are calling, they want their foreign policy back.” POTUS had his Wheaties for breakfast.chrissatullo
    So far Obama hitting Romney harder and faster than Romney’s hitting back. Much more intense than either of the last 2 debates.Ari Shapiro
    Second time Obama’s used the phrase “all over the map” to describe Romney’s policies.Ari Shapiro
    Romney on keeping troops in Iraq: http://ow.ly/eGq9K #debatesPolitiFact
    Romney constantly accuses Obama of sending mixed signals to US allies. Tonight Obama leveled the charge at Romney first.Ari Shapiro
    Romney: “Attacking me is not an agenda.” #debatesPOLITICO
    Romney goes, effectively, for the high ground after that Obama attack.Ben Smith
    Obama goal so far in the debate: I have actually done this stuff. Romney just talks about it. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Very unfocused so far: we’ve so far invoked Syria, Mali, Iraq, Iran, Russia, Libya and Afghanistan.Christopher Hayes
    Conservatives want Romney to stop asking Obama questions. They’re right: http://slate.me/RYwkkb #BocaDebateSlate
    Topic now shifts to Syria … Should we reassess our policies there? #debatesPOLITICO
    The Libya section of the debate has come and gone with essentially no scuffling over Benghazi and the response. Amazing.Ari Shapiro
    Obama: What we’re seeing in Syria, is heartbreaking… but getting involved there is a serious step. #debatesPOLITICO
    Romney has said he wants to arm those rebels in Syria who agree with American values. That values caveat makes it tricky.Ari Shapiro
    Obama: “I am confident Assad’s days are numbered.” Maybe that’s why he’s so cautious about doing anything to speed that result?chrissatullo
    Romney: Syria is a humanitarian disaster, and a high priority … but we don’t want military involvement in Syria. Must work with allies.POLITICO
    Romney is being careful here…making sure he demonstrates knowledge and seriousness. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Romney is effectively endorsing Obama’s foreign policy, except for demanding that we “lead” in some amorphous way. http://thebea.st/Vx0VZmAndrew Sullivan
    Romney’s responses seem designed to deflect accusations that he’s a war-monger. But Obama’s accusing him of being an everything-monger.Ari Shapiro
    That is, Obama’s not arguing that Romney wants to go to war with everybody. Obama’s arguing that Romney wants something different each day.Ari Shapiro
    Obama, again, makes the we need to nation build at home point. Why? Because the election is still about the economy. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Here’s the truth: The differences between Romney and Obama on foreign policy are more tonal than policy-specific. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Romney: “We want a peaceful planet.” Mantle of promoting peace has fallen to America. #debatesPOLITICO
    27 minutes into the debate, the phrase “strong economy here at home” is finally uttered. Romney says it first. How long till Obama does?Ari Shapiro
    Next Q: “What is America’s role in the world?” #debatesPOLITICO
    “America must be strong. America must lead. ” — Mitt Romney. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Romney: “When there are elections, people tend to vote for peace, not for war.” #debatesPOLITICO
    And here’s the part of the debate where the candidates tacitly acknowledge people don’t vote on foreign policy. #lynndebateThe Fix
    All our fact-checks on the military http://ow.ly/eGwLT #debatesPolitiFact
    Obama: “America remains the one, indispensable nation.” #debatesPOLITICO
    Our fact-checks on Iraq http://ow.ly/eGwzJ and Afghanistan http://ow.ly/eGwAI #debatesPolitiFact
    Obama: Our alliances have never been stronger, across the world. #debatesPOLITICO
    Romney says nowhere in the world is US influence greater today than it was 4 years ago. How do foreigners view the US? http://ow.ly/eGwSDFact Check
    Romney: “America must be strong. America must lead. You can’t have 20 million people struggling to find a job.” #debatesRoger Simon
    OK, it took 28 minutes for the two guys to go: Enough with this foreign stuff. Let’s talk about jobs, taxes and all that jazz.chrissatullo
    Obama name-checks Dick Cheney to try to tie Romney to Bush.The Fix
    Obama says Romney promoted “wrong and reckless” policies. #debatesPOLITICO
    Here’s Romney’s op-ed on ‘mission muddle’ in Libya: http://ow.ly/eGwZsFact Check
    Ok I know I’ve said this every debate but THEIR FIVE POINTS ARE THE SAME! http://www.npr.org/2012/10/03/162246644/romney-obama-have-parallel-points-on-the-economyAri Shapiro
    Romney: “I’ve got an agenda for the future.”Hard to have one for the past. Unless you’re Scott Bakula.chrissatullo
    Obama ‘promised’ 5.4 percent unemployment? Mostly False. http://ow.ly/eGx2a #debatesPolitiFact
    How/why are we talking about teachers unions in a foreign policy debate?!? Small businesses now!?! On man… #debateAnnie Shields
    Not surprisingly, the economy finds its way into the discussion on foreign policy #debates #lynndebateRosemary Connors
    “I have a five-point plan. 1) We need more five point plans. 2) We need to recite our five point plans, using our fingers. etc.”chrissatullo
    Class size! This is a classic foreign policy debate! #lynndebateThe Fix
    Dems like saying Mass. was 47th on job creation. Half True. Obama kind of garbled the talking point tho. http://ow.ly/eGx65 #debatesPolitiFact
    First audible reaction in the press room when Schieffer says “Let me get back to foreign policy.” And Romney is back on education…Ari Shapiro
    Schieffer tries to get the debate back to foreign policy, but candidates still talking domestic policy.POLITICO
    Romney’s mixed record on education funding in Mass. http://ow.ly/eGxez #debatesPolitiFact
    After saying “Let’s get back to foreign policy,” Schieffer asks how Romney will pay for a bigger military. Isn’t that a domestic budget Q?Ari Shapiro
    Bringing it back to foreign policy, Obamacare! #lynndebateThe Fix
    Seems like we’re leaving foreign policy for a bit! #debates All our factchecks on health care http://ow.ly/eGxhzPolitiFact
    Oh. My. God. somebody please moderate this thing? Please?Kai Ryssdal
    Will Romney increase defense by $2T? It depends what base of comparison you use when assessing the cost of his plan. http://ow.ly/eGxmIFact Check
    Sorting out the candidates’ claims on taxes. http://ow.ly/eGxpw #debatesPolitiFact
    I like this laundry list by Romney on how he has balanced budgets. Did it in the 2nd debate too. #lynndebateThe Fix
    States already run Medicaid. Funding split with feds; feds set some rules, but states run it. A governor should know that. #debateschrissatullo
    Obama: We spend more on our military than the next ten countries combined http://pbs.org/newshour #pbselection #lynndebateNewsHour
    Our Navy smaller than 1917? For a ridiculous comparison: Pants on Fire! http://ow.ly/eGxtG #debatesPolitiFact
    A plus for Romney: He is good at attacking without seeming nasty. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Oh man — don’t know if being condescending does BO any good on military readiness.Kai Ryssdal
    Whoa – Obama channels his inner Jon Stewart with a truly sarcastic riff re: military spending. Very sharp, but will turn some off.chrissatullo
    Our military spending has gone up every single year I’ve been in office, crows Obama. Liberals, take note. #debatesMehdi Hasan
    Obama takes on Romney budget, says they went to the website and it still doesn’t work. #debatesPOLITICO
    Obama to Romney: I’ve spent a lot of time on your Web site and it still makes no sense. He’s slicing and dicing, but has he gone too far?chrissatullo
    Moving on: “Would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States?” #debatesPOLITICO
    Obama: Iran will not get a nuclear weapon while I’m President.POLITICO
    Romney: When I’m President, we will stand with Israel if they are attacked. #debatesPOLITICO
    Dems think the “horses and bayonets” line was a big win. So do Rs, who are sending it to voters in swing states where naval ships are made.Ari Shapiro
    Obama admin’s record on sanctions against Iran: http://ow.ly/eGq3w #debatesPolitiFact
    “Those are reports in a newspaper, they are not true,” Obama says of NYT story on Iran talksJennifer Epstein
    Obama to Romney: This is not a game of Battleship http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/10/obama-to-romney-this-is-not-a-game-of-battleship-139251.htmlPOLITICO
    Romney said Obama began his presidency “with an apology tour.” Pants on Fire! http://ow.ly/eGpUI #debatesPolitiFact
    Obama responds to Romney on “apology tour” claim: “This has been the biggest whopper” from the campaign. #debatesPOLITICO
    Obama as political brawler — a very rarely seen side of him — is out in full force tonight. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Riveting to watch Romney tell Obama to his face why he calls it an “apology tour.” Everyone’s blood pressure is rising!Ari Shapiro
    Obama as president has never visited Israel: True. http://ow.ly/eGscK #debatesPolitiFact
    Romney: “We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran.” #debatesPOLITICO
    Romney refuses to get into hypothetical about Israel sending bombers into Iran. #debatesPOLITICO
    Obama: On a whole range of issues … you’ve been all over the map. #debatesPOLITICO
    Did Romney say he would not move ‘heaven & earth’ for bin Laden? Half True. http://ow.ly/eGqtW #debatesPolitiFact
    Obama says it was worth moving heaven and earth to get Osama Bin Laden http://pbs.org/newshour #lynndebateNewsHour
    Next Q: Troop withdrawal from AfghanistanPOLITICO
    Context alert: Romney said in 08 US focus should not be on 1 person, but on “broader strategy” to defeat Islamic jihad. http://ow.ly/eGyGtFact Check
    Too soon to ask? Obama over Romney this time by a larger margin than Romney over Obama in Debate I? Much smaller audience this time?chrissatullo
    This is a debate where partisans will come away profoundly convinced that their guy won. And voters?Neil King
    Obama: After a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation building here at home http://pbs.org/newshour #pbselection #lynndebateNewsHour
    Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country?chrissatullo
    Schieffer: Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan?POLITICO
    The “we talk about it but don’t do it” attack from Romney is his best one. But he hasn’t gotten to it enough tonight. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Romney has successfully countered the ‘warmonger’ label Dems had put on him, but the contrast w/ Obama is not that sharp so far.tomfitzgerald
    Romney on #drones: We should use any & all means necessary to take out anybody who poses a threat to this country http://to.pbs.org/V7ankMNewsHour
    Debate summed up: Romney – I agree with Obama, except for …. (trails off). Obama: Glad he agrees, but otherwise he’s wrong. #debateschrissatullo
    I note that Schieffer is not following up, or getting answers to Qs. Very passive moderator. Raddatz much much better. http://thebea.st/Vx0VZmAndrew Sullivan
    China is subject of many TV ads we’ve fact-checked. See ’em all: http://ow.ly/eGzkv #debatesPolitiFact
    Obama said attitudes of US have changed, mentioning Egypt. In Egypt, only 19% view U.S. favorably, down 3 pts since 08. http://ow.ly/eGzmsFact Check
    China takes center stage in the last minutes of debate.POLITICO
    Obama opposed China on tires, and Romney criticized. Mostly True. http://ow.ly/eGzt4 #debatesPolitiFact
    Romney: We can collaborate with China, if they are willing to be a good partner.chrissatullo
    Romney: Calls China a “currency manipulator.” Says China has to play by the rules. #debatesPOLITICO
    Last debate, Ds flooded the spin room 5 mins before the end. So this time the Rs came out 10 minutes before the end. #SpinsanityAri Shapiro
    Obama: You are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas, because invested in companies that shipped jobs overseas.POLITICO
    Romney invested in pioneers of outsourcing? Half True. http://ow.ly/eGzLd #debatesPolitiFact
    Smart, honest conservatives think Romney is helping himself w/this debate even if Obama has also been strong: http://slate.me/SjKWYJSlate
    Romney comes back at Obama comment by defending his record on auto industry, Detroit. #debatesPOLITICO
    Obama says Romney’s plan would create 800K jobs overseas. But study says foreign jobs could grow without costing US jobs….Fact Check
    “The people of Detroit don’t forget.” — Obama to Romney. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Romney: Investing in research, yes; investing in companies, no. Obama: You keep trying to airbrush history on Detroit.chrissatullo
    Our fact-check on Romney and the automakers: http://ow.ly/eGzUj #debatesPolitiFact
    Obama says Romney wouldn’t have provide any gov’t assistance for automakers. But Romney did propose loan guarantees. http://ow.ly/eGA20Fact Check
    Romney multiple times:”I love teachers” Schieffer: “I think we all love teachers.” #debatesPOLITICO
    Obama, ignoring foreign policy theme of debate, closes with a domestic pitch for four more years. #lynndebateThe Fix
    Obama in closing statement: It’s time to do some nation building at home … we bounce back because of our character. #debatesPOLITICO
    Romney: I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget. I’ll get people back to work with 12M new jobs. America is going to come back. #debatesPOLITICO
    CNN clock: Obama, 41:42; Romney, 41:07Fact Check
    Schieffer closes debate with the words of his Mom, who said, “Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong.” #debatesPOLITICO
    Would quality of debate be improved or harmed with @jillstein2012 & @GovGaryJohnson participating?Jeff Brady
    Transcript of the debate via NYTimes: http://ow.ly/eGAytFact Check

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